Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"
When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid."
And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
~ Matthew 17:1-9
What is it about keeping up appearances? All throughout our lives we have moments when we don't look, or act, or seem like ourselves.
For Christ, he has just told the disciples, those that have seen him at his best and worst at this point, that he is going to die. And now everyone seems to be looking at him in a different way.
I can remember the first time that I told someone that I had cancer. I'm not sure exactly what went through the person's mind, but I remember the look, and then I remember how I felt. It was as if I had just walked onto the pity bus route, and this was my first stop. I felt "different."
Obviously I must have "looked" different. I was now seen as someone with something uniquely strange going on within and somehow, I was no longer the person I once was.
The transfiguration of Christ is one that we find in three accounts within the Gospels. For that many writers to include the event in their own book, "something" definitely happened.
Christ takes Peter, John and James and decides to go pray on the mountain. That seems pretty ordinary for this group. It must have been because we don't hear of other disciples asking if they can come along, and no one seems to be worried about where or what they are doing. At least nothing is recorded.
The mountaintop experience this time, however, is climatic because as they pray, Christ seems to take on a new look, begins to shine brightly, and is joined by two of the greats within Biblical history.
I'm unsure when I first noticed the first "change" in me when I began treatment for my illness. I don't know if it was how pale I became because I was no longer able to really be in the sun, or how my face began to draw in, as I continued to experience weight loss.
I don't really remember, but it was several events that pointed to several differences occurring all at once in my life.
Christ's change was nearly instantaneous. Although it doesn't say exactly how long the event lasted, it was as if this event not only changed Christ, but prepared those present to identify Christ in a new way.
This friend, and Rabbi, or teacher, leader of this group of men, was suddenly different in some way. He shared in a moment with Moses and Elijah, two greats that every Hebrew man learned about beginning at an early age. And they saw them all!
It is not recorded what the conversation was like between these greats, however, from the clouds above a voice is overheard and a proclamation of "This is my son whom I am proud of" is linked to the occasion. Things were suddenly different.
For Peter, James and John, their lives would be different because they were the front row audience to this mountaintop experience.
However, they are asked not to share of the experience until after Christ had died.
For any of us, our mountaintop experiences, no matter how public or private, are experiences that change us. Do you honestly believe that these people looked and acted the same after this encounter? Would the other disciples who have spent hours walking dusty roads together and sleeping next to one another next to fires that provided warmth, didn't have a clue that "something" had happened?
Do you really believe that our family doesn't recognize when we have had an event in our life that has effected us, emotionally, spiritually, or physically?
The transfiguration of Christ effected everyone! It was as if the birth of the baby was marked by a star that now as the man, seemed to radiate from within for others to see!
Remember generations earlier when Moses returned from spending time with God on the mountain. The people had to cover his face because it effected others who looked upon Moses!
Our encounter with God changes us!
"Don't tell anyone about this..."
Sometimes I think that this is part of the problem with these encounters. I understand that there always seems to be a reason why these events seem to be masked by the caution not to share. For us today, it makes us wonder "why" as the generations who know the "rest of the story."
But for those who have these experiences today, where the living God meets and changes lives, the need for sharing needs to be the stories that we share with one another. These are not shameful! These are moments when God is being realized in the world! In a world where hope seems to be overwhelmed by hopelessness.
The encounters can get a person labeled as "radical" and cause a person to refrain from sharing.
I'm grateful for life narratives like that of Martin Luther King, Jr. who proclaimed that he had "been to the mountaintop!"
Our ability to behold a living God is not just a promise, it is a reality for any of us! Being bold in our encounter, and bolder in our sharing! This is what makes us all different, and the world a different place.
While I continue to live my life post-treatment, there is not a day that passes that I don't realize that I have been changed.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.